Politics & Policy

A Journey, a Cartoonist, a Democratic Party Chairman, and More

I find that I am all too blasé about space exploration. I mean, our achievements are staggering. Consider the mission to the Saturn moon. The New York Post tells me, it took seven years to get there; miles traveled were 2.2 billion. The day before Christmas, a probe (called Huygens) was “spun off” from the “mother ship” (called Cassini). And it all worked. You journey 2.2 billion miles–requiring seven years–and drop something right on the target?

Don’t tell me that anti-missile defenses can’t be developed. You may not want them (of course, I don’t mean you, Impromptus readers), but you would be foolish to think they can’t be developed.

Remember when anti-SDIers couldn’t decide whether they opposed the effort because it would work or wouldn’t? Are they still in that mode?

Actually, they opposed it chiefly because a) Reagan thought of it and b) it suggested that we should be protected from the Soviet Union.

‐Couple of weeks ago, David Brooks had a column on Social Security, concerning which, a few observations. (That formulation sound familiar?)

Brooks wrote, “First, many Republicans will be loathe to back a bill that has no Democratic support.”

I don’t think Brooks wrote the verb “loathe” instead of the adjective “loath”; I suspect an ignorant Times copyeditor.

The columnist continued, “Second, it will be hard to get Democratic votes for a bill that includes personal accounts. Democrats oppose them for the same reason that Republicans support them: because they think the accounts will create Republicans.”

Actually, we support them because we think they will save Social Security and give people in retirement prosperity and peace of mind that they would not otherwise have. A consequence of this reform may be that people will incline more Republican.

Okay, I’m done with that column.

‐Another columnist, E. J. Dionne, gave me a flashback. Years ago–I think I was in college–I came up with a summary phrase for Ted Kennedy’s rhetoric about abortion: “Enact socialism, or we’ll kill the kids.” That is the language of the hostage-taker. You see, Kennedy is always saying that, before we can move against abortion, we have to achieve a society in which nothing bad ever happens to a child.

Well, in a recent column, Dionne was hailing a big Kennedy speech:

[The senator’s] challenge to the right-to-life movement was plain. “History teaches that abortions do not stop because they are made illegal. Indeed, half of all abortions in the world are performed in places where abortions are illegal.” Those who oppose abortion need to face the fact that “the number of abortions is reduced when women and parents have education and economic opportunity.” Don’t those who care about the right to life have a special obligation to make universal prenatal care–and health care generally–a priority?

The rhetoric never changes: Unless you sign on to what Hillary Clinton and Marian Wright Edelman ask for, you have no right to oppose the destruction of unborn children.

In that same column, Dionne quoted Kennedy as saying, “Surely, we can all agree that abortion should be rare, and that we should do all we can to help women avoid the need to face that decision.”

Why should abortion be rare? Why? If it is not the destruction of an unborn child–if it is akin to an appendectomy–why should abortion be rare? No one goes around saying that appendectomies should be rare.

And what do you mean, “help women avoid the need to face that decision”? What need? Is that a plea for birth control–which is as plentiful as water?

Kennedy has uttered sophistic gibberish, and not very good sophistic gibberish at that.

‐I have a point about a later Dionne column, but it is merely a language point. He writes, “If Bush’s inaugural address this week gets good reviews, he will owe many of the kudos to [speechwriter Michael] Gerson.”

Strictly speaking, kudos is a singular (and Greek) word. Kudos is not a plural for kudo. You don’t have kudos like you have marbles–one for me, one for you, one for Billy, one for Susie.

But we are relaxed about this, and why not?

‐Speaking of relaxed: Can we have a CBS News anchor named Katie? We did have a president named Jimmy.

But we know how that turned out . . .

‐OpinionJournal.com has provided us with a link to Brian C. Anderson’s wonderful, illuminating, and encouraging article in City Journal. The piece is called “Right on Campus: Conservatives begin to infiltrate the left’s last redoubt.”

I have a couple of points, one of them quite minor: We read, “More than a half-century has passed since a just-matriculated William F. Buckley published ‘God and Man at Yale’ . . .” Actually, that should read “a just-graduated William F. Buckley.”

But the more serious point is this: Anderson writes, “Affirmative action particularly exasperates [today’s conservative students]. Chris Pizzo, a political science major who edits Boston College’s conservative paper, the Observer, points to wealthy Cuban-American friends from his native Florida, ‘raised with at least the same advantages and in the same environment that I was,’ yet far likelier to get into the top schools. [‘]Where’s the justice in that?’”

That surprises me quite a bit. My understanding is that Cuban Americans are not counted as Hispanics–not at the universities. You remember that delicious bit from the University of Michigan affirmative-action case: The admissions officers were loath to acknowledge Cuban Americans as members of a minority, because, “Don’t they vote Republican?”

And a former department chairman at a major university told me that he once inquired why a Cuban American from Miami was not eligible for minority aid. The answer: “Oh, they’re not real Hispanics.” (If Cubans were willing to join the grievance culture, they would be. They have grievances, all right–they’re just not La Raza’s.)

Perhaps policy varies from campus to campus.

‐I hold in my hand–that sounds like McCarthy!–a cartoon from the back page of The New Yorker. It is by the never-disappointing Art Spiegelman. (Never-disappointing for negative reasons.) He has a menacing Uncle Sam with a big, fat gold cross around his neck; and he has a picture of himself next to him, wearing a T-shirt saying, “I’M WITH STUPID.” An arrow points to the Christian Uncle Sam.

Just in case–just in case–you forgot how New Yorker types feel about Bush-voting America!

‐I quote Coretta Scott King: “If Martin’s philosophy had been lived out in Iraq, we wouldn’t have bin Laden.” I would think about that more, but I’m dizzy.

‐The head of the New York Democratic party, Herman Farrell, is about to have a child with his girlfriend. A reporter at the New York Post, Fred Dicker, wrote that Farrell had “fathered an out-of-wedlock ‘love child.’” Responded the party chairman, “I think the question of whether I have a child out of wedlock–and even that word: It makes it look like major sin. We’re living in the 21st century.”

That, friends, encapsulates the thinking of virtually everyone around us–left, right, whatever. That is the modern mindset. Perfectly expressed.

‐My friend Jack Jolis sends me a copy of a publication from France: LAnti-Américain. Its motto–emblazoned in capital letters at the top of the front page–is, “We are all anti-Americans.” A really pretty, almost-naked girl holds an American flag.

Jack’s accompanying note says, “Look what’s for sale at better kiosks everywhere in Paris.” And he directs me to page 3, where various American malefactors are quoted–including our own beloved Jonah Goldberg! (NR’s address is provided.)

Well, at least that girl is pretty!

‐Speaking of publications, I saw a copy of the Spanish-language Hoy the other day, and thought, “That would be a good name for a Jewish paper.” (Pardon the pun.)

‐David Letterman had a top-ten list, the “Top Ten Perks of Being the New White House Dog.” The opening line was, “You’re one of the few dogs that is smarter than his master.” Actually, that should be, “You’re one of the few dogs that are smarter than their masters.” If you’re going to make fun of someone for being stupid–and if you think George W. Bush is stupid, you are very, very stupid indeed–don’t be stupid yourself.

‐A friend of mine wrote to say–to confirm!–that Bob Shrum is no Lincoln. Discussing Election ‘04, he said to Chris Matthews, “Defeat has a hundred fathers.”

‐May I give you a scourge of American society (besides Bob Shrum)? “To advocate for.” I keep reading what I read in a paper the other day: “In his story, Mr. Hersh says Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Feith have privately advocated for an invasion of Iran.” Ugh . . . fingernails against the chalkboard.

‐Friends, we’re going to have a couple of letters about Christmas. Here’s one:

Hi, Jay:

As a barbershopper, I received the below notice today.

Subject line: “Checkers Entertainment looking for contractors for 2005 Seasonal Celebrations.”

Body of e-mail: “This is what we are looking for. Professional Carolers Dressed for the 2005 Season Celebrations. Must be able to sing non-Christian Christmas Songs in 4-part harmony, arrive at the event dressed in a Seasonal Caroler costume and present themselves as professionals. These events are held outdoors from 7–9 each evening.”

Non-Christian Christmas songs!

Oh, yes!

And here’s the second letter:

Thought this might interest you. About a week ago, I was talking to a friend in Beijing whom I knew from a bridge tournament. She was proud that her daughter, by being at the head of her English class, was going to star in the class’s Christmas pageant. It seems we have to go to a totalitarian and atheist country to have a little Christmas in school!

‐And a letter about New York idiocy:

Dear Jay:

I was in New York over the weekend, catching up on theater. My primary reason for choosing last weekend was to hear Audra McDonald kick off Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.

As she got ready to sing her final song, she made the statement that “2004 was a horrible year.” (She had previously made a fairly innocuous red/blue comment.) People applauded. They actually applauded the statement that 2004 had been horrible.

Well, of course!

‐A little Che?

Good evening, Jay,

I just finished watching an episode of What Not to Wear on TLC (it’s a great chick show where some fashion disaster is ambushed and given a fabulous makeover). I’ve always loved the show, but this one was the BEST! The lovely young Cuban girl who was receiving the makeover in this episode was tooling around New York wearing a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face on it–but with a diagonal “no” line through the face! I nearly fell off the couch. I didn’t think they would allow that shirt in NYC, much less on TLC. My husband even came down to watch the episode to cheer her on! It was GREAT!

Hope you have a great week . . .

I will now.

And this from noted Latin America specialist Mark Falcoff:

Jay, a couple of additional points to your “Che Chic” article.

When I went to Cuba a few years ago I discovered a stand at the craft market near the Havana Cathedral which sold Che berets. I talked to the guy at the stand . . . asked him who bought these things. He said, “Almost always Europeans.” I asked, “Any Cubans interested in this?” He just laughed. That said a lot.

The other thing to bear in mind is that probably a lot of people just think of Che as “some guy from the ’60s.” Maybe they think he was a rock star who died of a drug overdose. Even this latest crappy movie about him is more a romantic travelogue for most people who see it . . . they don’t get the political message. Political movies have to hit you over the head to get their message across, and then they don’t always succeed. How many people know which country is supposed to be represented in Missing?

I quite understand the reaction of Cuban Americans to this sort of thing, but I am afraid it is just the price we pay for our ridiculous pop culture. Anyway, thanks for writing about this.

Thank you.

‐And some letters about obnoxious bookstore clerks? (I don’t want to entertain any more of those. I mean, letters–or the clerks.)

Several years ago I was in Foyle’s bookstore off Trafalgar Square and asked a clerk for directions to a section where I could buy biographies of Margaret Thatcher. Without skipping a beat, he looked at me and said, ‘I should think horror, and science fiction.”


Jay, I was in the MIT Press bookstore in Kendall Square, People’s Republic of Cambridge, a few years ago when Blackhawk Down was out as a movie. One Cambridge bookseller says to another, “Heard you saw Blackhawk Down.”


“What’s it about?”

“White people killing black people.”

So, so familiar.

And this one is actually about a library clerk:

Yesterday my wife was checking out the book about Tom DeLay, Hammer, and the clerk said, “He’s an evil man.” This is at the Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., library. This is a female college freshman speaking to my wife. Would you have ever said anything anywhere like that?

In a stern but not-hostile manner, my wife said, “He is not evil. And it is not your job to talk about that–particularly when you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

What a wonderful woman! (Not the library clerk.)

‐And finally, a couple about language, glorious language:


Have you ever heard the following midwesternism, or Kansas-ism? When someone asks a question or makes a statement that is not heard clearly, folks in these parts will say–instead of “Pardon?” or “Hmm?”–”Do what?”

New to me, but I like (sort of).

And last,

I know you appreciate place names. Well, this past October, while my husband and I were driving east on I-40 from Nashville to Dayton, Tenn., we stopped for lunch in Lebanon. At the intersection to return to the interstate, I saw a road sign for . . . Tater Peeler Road. Just another small thing I love about living in this country.

Me too.

See you.


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